Peter Ranscombe grabs his litter picker and pulls on his wellies to find out about the Scottish wine merchant that’s leading the charge with wines that cause less damage to the planet.
I’VE taken part in wine tastings in some odd locations for Scottish Field over the years, from a tent in a muddy field in Kent to various dusty hillsides in the South of France.
This morning was the first time I’d been asked to wear a hi-vis vest and a pair of wellies to crack open a bottle though.
Yet somehow a beach clean in South Queensferry near Edinburgh felt like the perfect event for the Scottish launch of Sea Change, a range of wines that aims to have a lower impact on the environment.
The wines are placed in lightweight bottles designed to cut down on the amount of raw materials needed and the amount of fuel burned shipping them around the world.
They use “Grape Touch” labels made from 15% recycled grape waste, with the rest of the paper coming from Forest Stewardship Council-certified trees.
Their stoppers contain no plastic and are fully biodegradable.
Perhaps the most-striking difference is the lack of a “capsule”, the plastic cover that wraps round the neck and top of the bottle.
Twenty-five euro cents from the sale of each bottle of Sea Change wine will be donated to marine charity Plastic Oceans and to local partners for each country in which the wine is sold, including Sea Changers, which funds community projects in the UK, and the Olive Ridley Project, which cares for sea turtles in the Indian Ocean.
Bill Rolfe, chairman of 10 International, the company that sources the wines, came up with the idea while chatting with friends last year at ProWein, a big industry conference in Germany.
In less than 12 months, Rolfe has turned the idea into reality, with Glasgow-based wine merchant Inverarity Morton acting as the wines’ distributor in the UK.
Rolfe wants the wine industry to go further, especially when it comes to the plastic capsules wrapped around the neck of bottles.
“Why do we have them?” he asks, pointing out that they’re purely cosmetic and don’t stop air getting into the wine.
While he acknowledges that a paper seal may be needed to prove the wine hasn’t been tampered with, he points out that it’s the cork or other stopper that protects the wine in the bottle and not the capsule.
Wines with enhanced environmental credentials will be a big selling point for the bars, restaurants and bottle shops that stock them, but do the liquids in the bottle warrant a place on a wine list or shelf?
The simple answer is – yes, they do, as I found out at Scotts restaurant in Port Edgar Marina, where we retreated for a tasting after completing our beach clean.
My favourite from the two being stocked by Inverarity Morton was the Sea Change Negroamaro, produced by Cantine Due Palme in Salento, Italy.
It has that distinctive warm Italian smell, with red cherry, blackberry, vanilla and woodsmoke, leading into a soft mouthfeel with sweet strawberry jam notes joining the fresher fruit.
Its Salento stablemate, the Sea Change Chardonnay, walks the fine line between fresh acidity and crisp lemon juice and peach flavours, but ultimately charts a safe course and would be an ideal match for seafood.
Find out more about Sea Change and its charity partners at www.seachangewine.com